The Best Water Bottle Review

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Hydratin' with the MSR Alpine near Berthoud Pass, Colorado.
Credit: Sebastian Bailey
We challenged long-time rulers of the outdoor water bottle market, and determined which was truly best in this comprehensive, side-by-side review. The Nalgene may be the standard, but it encountered fierce competition. Collapsible designs, perfect for ultralight outings, "sippy-top" options and others fill niche roles in ways that main-stream bottles are unable to match. We evaluated each on parameters of utility, durability, ease of use and leak-proofness to determine our winners. Read on, and find out which is best for you adventures.

Some other water-related reviews you might be interested in: Hydration Packs and Hydration Bladders.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Water Bottles Displaying 1 - 5 of 8 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Nalgene
Nalgene
Read the Review
Klean Kanteen
Klean Kanteen
Read the Review
Camelbak Eddy
Camelbak Eddy
Read the Review
Platypus PlusBottle
Platypus PlusBottle
Read the Review
Vapur Element
Vapur Element
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award   
Street Price Varies $8.62 - $11.49
Compare at 7 sellers
Varies $16 - $20
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $11 - $20
Compare at 9 sellers
Varies $8.96 - $16.95
Compare at 8 sellers
Varies $11 - $12
Compare at 2 sellers
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80% recommend it (4/5)
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1 rating
Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Durable, compatible with water filters, light, can be used as hot water bottleDurable, does not mold or hold taste, wide choice of tops.Durable, handy straw, can use one-handedVersatile, light, large volumeEasy to use, packable
Cons Holds tastes, top loop is unreliableNot compatible with water filters, heavy.Difficult to clean, complex.durabilityNot versatile
Best Uses Any activity where a lighter water bottle is helpful: hiking, backpacking, climbingAny activity where weight is not a critical issue: daily use, sports, hiking, campingDaily use, dayhikesBackpacking, climbing, backcountry exploitsDaily, lifestyle
Date Reviewed Aug 18, 2013Aug 18, 2014Aug 19, 2013Aug 18, 2013Aug 19, 2013
Weighted Scores Nalgene Klean Kanteen Camelbak Eddy Platypus PlusBottle Vapur Element
Durability - 25%
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7
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Ease Of Use - 25%
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Versatility - 25%
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Versatility - 25%
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Product Specs Nalgene Klean Kanteen Camelbak Eddy Platypus PlusBottle Vapur Element
Weight (Volume) 6.2 oz (0.95 L) 10 oz (1.18 L) 5.4 oz (7.5 l) 1 oz (2 L) 2.6 oz (.75 L)
Largest Volume 1.42 Liters 1.89 Liters 1 liter 2 Liters 1 Liter
Warranty REI/Backcountry REI/Backcountry Rei/backcountry Backcountry Unknown
Material Tritan Copolyester Stainless Steel Tritan copolyester BPA Free plastic BPA Free plastic

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Nalgene
$10
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85
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Platypus PlusBottle
$13
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80
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Klean Kanteen
$18-26
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80
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Camelbak Eddy
$16
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80
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Vapur Element
$14
100
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78
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Liberty Bottle
$8
100
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73
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Camelbak Groove
$25.00
100
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78
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MSR Alpine
$33
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70
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Types of water bottles
While the Nalgene was once the one-size-fits all staple of outdoor recreationists, the market has grown enormously in recent years. Consumers can now choose from all manner of materials and designs. To help you navigate the increasingly varied world of water-bottles, we've outlined the primary features and advantages of each major category:

Plastic
Even with the post-BPA rise in metal designs, plastic is still the most commonly seen material. Plastic is cheap, versatile, and a better insulator than metal. Plastic also tend to be much lighter. Included this category are the collapsible models like the Platypus PlusBottle and Vapur. Plastic is best suited for extended trips, or anytime weight becomes a consideration. While plastic versions came under scrutiny a few years ago because of concerns about BPA, nearly any model available today and every one that we tested is BPA-free.

Co-polyester, branded as Tritan, has emerged as the primary replacement for the old BPA recipe. Tritan tends to be more brittle than the old material, but still worth purchasing.

Metal
Metal Bottles, like the Klean Kanteen and MSR Alpine, tend to be more durable than their plastic counterparts. They will dent easily, but beyond aesthetic damage, they are nearly indestructible. Metal designs are typically heavier, and the classic Klean Kanteen narrow-mouth size is not usually compatible with filters or other accessories designed for Nalgenes. Most manufacturers have addressed this problem by creating their own wide-mouth versions.

Metal options, because of their weight, are great for daily use but are hard to justify on longer trips. We may occasionally bring one along as an emergency (or even primary) cooking vessel, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Overall, metal versions are much better suited for day-to-day drinking than longer outings. Another challenge with metal bottles is that they often are an awkward shape and size. They are typically too narrow to snugly fit in a car drink holder and are often too tall to fit in a bicycle water bottle holder/cage.

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Climbing with a metal bottle in Castle Rock State Park, California.
Credit: Cady Watts

Collapsible
Some products, like the Platy Plus and Vapur, are collapsible. The entire thing can be rolled up and stowed to a size no bigger than a pair of thin socks. They are extremely light and, as in the case of the Platy Plus, can hold a much greater volume than their rigid counterparts.

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The Platy Plus and Vapur Element, packed volume.
Credit: Atherton Phleger

Because of their meager weight and ease of storage, collapsible versions are our favorite for backpacking and climbing. We also carry one in the back of our hydration pack and fill it with a highly concentrated mixture of Cytomax or similar sports drink. We do this to keep our hydration bladder and hoses bacteria free. As you can read about an our Hydration Pack Review and Hydration Bladder Review , even the easiest to clean hydration reservoirs are very hard to keep bacteria free if you constantly fill them with sports drinks or any sugary water.

That being said, collapsible bottles are far less durable than rigid models. The thin material does not stand up well to use. Frequent flexing on specific points can quickly create leaks. The exception to this is the MSR DromLite which is not only very durable, it comes with an excellent warranty if you ever do run into leaks.

Sipper Lids
There are two frequent styles of lids: conventional lids, which screw on and off, and "sipper lids," which have straws or "sport" cap styles, which allow the user to drink without removing the cap. Conventional lids are easy to use, easy to lose, and simple to repair or replace. For all applications which are not clearly made simpler by a "sipper," we prefer conventional caps. Sipper lids are useful for children, one-handed drinking, and preventing spills but due to their additional components, they create a possible point of leakage. Sipper lids are also by far the most convenient to drink from while driving or walking. Parents appreciate sipper lids because they're able to share their bottle with their kids without the possibility of big spills.

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Olive using the Camelbak Eddy.
Credit: Chris McNamara

A word on BPA
Every design we tested was BPA Free. Models containing BPA have become a thing of the past after the scare in 2008. Many contenders we tested were plastic however, and there is mounting councern about some of the other dangers that petroleum products may present to drinking water. (http://www.babycenter.ca/a1017837/phthalates-what-you-need-to-know);. In the case of phthalates, there has not been sufficient concern, scientific research, and public support to convince outdoor manufacturers to label and address the problem of phthalates. I suspect, however, that even if phthalates were eliminated someone eventually would discover another concerning feature of plastic. If drinking out of plastic bothers you at all, find a one. There are plenty of options to choose from.

Insulation
There may be no greater pleasure than crawling into a sleeping bag preheated by a warm Nalgene. Warming one's sleeping bag with a water bottle is an excellent way to test its insulative capacity. How long will it stay warm? Will it burn you at its hottest? Nalgenes are the benchmark for this test. They never get dangerously hot, and they can keep liquids lukewarm through the entire night.

Klean Kanteens, as with all metal designs, have less effective insulation. The conductivity of the metal, which is very handy if you ever find yourself without a cooking vessel, is less useful when dealing with hot liquids. Wrapping it in a thick sock makes it possible to handle it without injury. Vaccuum-insulated versions are also an option for those who have hot drinks regularly, but they are usually too heavy to be considered practical for most outdoor pursuits.

Product Metrics

Durability
Durability is a huge determining factor in value. How long will it last? Collapsible models tend to be less durable than their rigid counterparts, due to frequent stress on flex points. The bodies of rigid contenders are usually very durable, but often have failure points on the lids. The most durable products we tested were the Klean Kanteen and the Camelbak Groove. The metal body of the Klean Kanteen was fully indestructible. Models that we bought right when they came onto the market are still getting good use. As for the Camelbak Groove, its thick walls made it incredibly sturdy. It withstood a literal beating, as we used it to drive an awl through bison leather when our mallet broke.

Ease of use
When testing for ease of use, we focused on moving parts and superfluous components. The fewer, the better. In this category, we preferred a design like the Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, and Platy Plus for their no-frills, screw-on screw-off lids. When using them in the dark, on climbing routes, or with one hand, the simplicity made a noticable difference. The Nalgene just barely edged out the other leaders in this category with its retaining strap, which kept us from worrying about losing the lid.

Utility
How practical is the product? How versatile? Is it just as useful in the backcountry as in a board meeting?

For this category, the Platy Plus was our winner. It rolls up and stows away discreetly, handles the largest volume of any of the products tested, and can be converted into a hydration pack, if you purchase a separate drinking tube. Unfortunately, the Platy Plus is not directly compatible with filters. (You can make it work, but it's a pain). The wide-mouth products, such as the Camelbak Eddy and Groove, the Nalgene, the MSR Alpine, and wide-mouth versions of the Klean Kanteen are compatible. As rigid designs, they also lend themselves to non manufacturer-recommended uses. Plastic versions make great night-time heaters, and any rigid model can be used as a hammer or rolling pin. Metal models, particularly the Klean Kanteen, make great emergency vessels. But for sheer practicality, we prefer the Platy Plus.

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The MSR Miniworks EX screws onto the top of a Nalgene bottle for ease of use and added stability while pumping.
Credit: Max Neale

Leak-Proofness
Nearly all of the contenders we tested were reliably leak-proof. In general, models with simple screw-on, screw-off caps did the best in this category. "Sippy-tops", nipples, or alternatives were sometimes hard to close, and sometimes leaked outright.


Awards
Editor's Choice
Or favorite, plastic or otherwise, was the Nalgene. This high-performing product proved, through intense testing, that it is just as good as it ever was. It is an iconic staple of the outdoor world, and as such most (nearly all) water-bottle accessories developed to fit the Nalgene, from water filters to the bottle sleeves on backpacks.
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The interior of the Chillwave has a mesh drop-in pocket perfectly sized for a Nalgene.
Credit: Chris Simrell

But it's the standard for good reason. The Nalgene is durable, light and simple. It's perfect, nothing but a non-leaking cap and body. No sippers, moving parts or breakable bits. And it makes a killer sleeping-bag warmer.

Best Buy
We nearly awarded the Editor's Choice to the Platypus PlusBottle. It is an outlier in an increasingly diverse field of collapsible models. While many of these products were "developing", the PlusBottle is mature. Like the Nalgene, it has the simplest possible design, just the cap and body. Unlike the Nalgene, this 2 liter version can roll up to the size of a tube of toothpaste. It can be converted to a hydration bladder, which we found really set it apart. It's incredibly light, and it costs less than $15.

Because the body is thin plastic, it will expire long before any Nalgene. Within a year and a half, if you mistreat it. But the PlusBottle will perform beyond expectations within that time, and hey, it's only $13. If you want to save even more money, check out the Platypus SoftBottle for $8-12.

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Platy Plus

Top Pick: Best Metal
The Klean Kanteen was our second highest scoring contender and the best metal design we have tested. While all plastic designs are now BPA free, there is growing concern about any type of plastic bottle, especially those that are used for hot or warm liquids. If you are concerned about using plastic, then the Kleen Kanteen is the way to go.

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Klean Kanteen
Credit: Klean Kanteen

Top Pick: Most Convenient
The Camelbak Eddy was the best straw or sipper version that we tested. It is incredibly durable and easy to use with one hand if you are driving or hiking. It is also the best option for kids and infants as it is almost spill proof, nearly unbreakable, and is unlikely to damage most surfaces if dropped.
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Camelbak Eddy 1L Water Bottle
Credit: Camelbak Eddy 1L

Application-Based Recommendations
Climbing: PlatyPlus
Day-hiking: Nalgene
Backpacking: Platy Plus/Nalgene
Winter: Klean Canteen
Lifestyle: Vapur, Liberty, Klean Kanteen

History of Water Bottles
Water carrying vessels are probably one of the oldest tools that humans have used. Whether it was made from animal bladders or hides, clay, wood, grass or glass, we have always needed a way of carrying and storing liquids, and even the earliest of human civilizations used some type of water container. 60,000 years ago, hunter gathers in the Kalahari used ostrich eggshells as a drinking/carrying vessel, and wooden canteens from the 7th century have been preserved in Germany.

The first known incidence of bottling water in glass containers came in 1622 in the United Kingdom, and for the next two centuries, mineral springs were popular due to their supposed therapeutic properties. The fad spread to the United States, where the first commercially bottled water was sold in Boston in 1767.

Bottled water, whether it was from a spring or artificially carbonated, was seen as a safer option than the municipal options available at the time and its popularity quickly grew. It was often contaminated with typhoid and cholera, and bottled H2O offered a safer alternative. By the latter half of the 19th century, over 7 million bottles a year were produced by a bottling company in Saratoga Springs. Glass bottles used to transport water, say for travelers or hikers, were covered with a woven basket to protect it from breaking, and had a cork stopper. Other canteens preserved from the Civil War era were made of wood.

During the early 20th century, canteens were made of metal, either aluminum or tin-plated steel. While they were more durable than glass bottles, they did develop leaks if dropped or dented too often. At the same time, municipal supplies began to be treated with chlorination, and the popularity of spring and bottled H20 in the United States waned until 1977, when Perrier began an advertising campaign designed to lure Americans back to the idea of bottled water.

The modern plastic reusable water bottle first came into being thanks to developments in plastics and the discovery of high density polyethylene. In 1949 Emanuel Goldberg, a chemist, invented a plastic pipette holder and formed the Nalge Company in Rochester, Ney York. His team developed polyethylene lab equipment including bottles of various shapes and sizes. Scientists in the lab began taking some of the smaller bottles on their hikes, and the word quickly spread. In 1970, Marsh Hyman, the president of the company at the time, decided try some with his son's Boy Scout troop and was quickly convinced of their practicality. The product took off, and the Nalgene Company was reborn.

In the 1980's, a Swiss company called Sigg began manufacturing aluminum bottles. These were lined with a plastic coating so as to prevent a metallic aftertaste. They soon became popular with hikers for drinking water, but also for carrying around liquid white gas used for camp stoves.

The next evolution in design came from Michael Eidson, a bicyclist who was competing in the "Hotter'N Hell 100" bike race in Texas during the summer of 1988. Eidson knew that there would be few places to refill his water during the 100 mile race, so he filled up an IV bag, put it in a white tube sock and stuffed it in the back of his jersey. He then put the drip hose over his shoulder and attached it with a clothespin. He was able to drink while pedaling and didn't have to fiddle with refilling his bottles, though he did get some laughs from the other competitors. Eidson soon developed a commercial version of what is known today as the CamelBak.

Then in 2004, Robert Seals launched the Kleen Kanteen, a food-grade stainless steel bottle. At the time, the environmental and health issues of plastic water bottles were still not widely known, however he anticipated a demand. When the concerns over the Bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics was first reported on in 2007 and 2008, Kleen Kanteen was perfectly poised to offer a toxin-free alternative. Even though there is currently no ban on BPA in water bottles, consumer demand pushed manufacturers to retool their bottles, or in the case of aluminum, bottle liners, to be BPA-free. Today, most high quality products on the market are BPA-free, and you can be sure that they will advertise them as such if they are.

The BPA scare also prompted a resurgence in portable glass bottles, with companies like Lifefactory and Pure growing in popularity. As Americans drink more water, both during outdoor pursuits and day to day, the demand for reusable water bottles continues to increase, but unfortunately so is our consumption of single use water bottles.


Ask an Expert: Chantel Astorga
Adidas Outdoor athlete Chantel Astorga has been making headlines in the climbing world lately, both with her 2nd ascent of Polarchrome on Mt. Huntington in Alaska (with Jewel Lund) and her record setting speed solo of The Nose on El Capitan, which she completed in 24 hours and 39 minutes. She's no newcomer to the speed climbing world, having set the women's team record three times in previous years, but solo speed climbing is another thing altogether essentially she climbed El Cap twice in a little over 24 hours! Prior to this awesome feat, Chantel had spent four seasons guiding on Denali, and several years as a member of the elite Yosemite Search and Rescue Team. She's also a competitive mountain bike racer, expert skier and professional avalanche forecaster. This multi-sport athlete shared her expertise with us on what water bottles work for various different applications, as well as a cautionary tale about what happens when you run out of what's inside them.
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Chantel Astorga during her speed solo ascent of The Nose on El Capitan. She ran out of water on this attempt and had to climb for 14 hours without anything to drink.
Credit: Tom Evans

Do you have a favorite type??
I have a 40 ounce Kleen Kanteen for everyday use. I've gone through two of them in the last seven years, and that's the one I throw in my pack if I'm going cragging. But that's not what I typically use when I go on big climbs or expeditions. That's my everyday water bottle.

So you use different ones for different sports?
Definitely. When I ski I tend to use a CamelBak, and when I climb in the alpine I use a Nalgene. When I go multi-pitch climbing I usually just use a Gatorade bottle attached to my harness by a piece of p-cord.

Do you have a preference of plastic vs stainless steel?
I think water certainly tastes a lot better out of stainless steel, which is why I use the Kleen Kanteen day to day. But in the alpine world, especially when it's cold out, you can put a Nalgene into an insulated pouch and then it doesn't freeze and stays functional. I haven't found anything better than a Nalgene for the alpine environment.

Do you ever use a collapsible model?
I do have a Platypus and I love that thing. I use it if I am going alpine climbing in the summertime where I am not worried about it freezing. I also used it on The Nose. Those things are great.

What about mouthpiece design? Do you prefer and open mouth or a straw feature?
I've never used a straw feature. I think for alpine climbing the wide mouth is far more functional because you can pour hot water out of a pot into it, and the wide mouth makes it easier to refill.

Any features you don't like?
Something with a small top that is hard to fill up. I also don't like bulky or heavy water bottles that have extra stuff on them. I prefer super simple and straightforward designs.

Do you like to use them as hot water heaters in your sleeping bag?
Yes! Nalgenes are good for that, and it's definitely a treat when you are in a cold environment, especially if you're bivying in the middle of a climb. You tend to be cold in those situations, and it warms your soul and refuels you. If you have cold feet or hands it's really nice to have something to hold on to or put next to your feet when you are going to bed.

What's the most water you've ever carried at one time?
When I went to solo Mescalito on El Cap, a friend who had also done the route solo told me that it would probably take me around 12 days. So I took 12 gallons of water with me, and my bags were super heavy. Then, about halfway up the route I realized that I was on a much faster pace than he thought I would take and so I dumped out 4 gallons. I topped out on the morning of Day 7. I had never soloed a wall before and so I think he was probably trying to set me up for success in a way, but it turned out to be too much. What's nice about climbing in Alaska, or places where there is snow, is that you don't have to carry more than 1 or 2 liters at a time. It's easy to just stop and melt snow, and it keeps your pack lighter.

What water bottle setup did you use on your solo speed ascent of the Nose?
I had around 6 liters of water with me both times that I tried the route solo. 2 liters in a CamelBak, a quart on my waist for when I was leading since I was leaving my pack at the anchor, and then I had another quart and another liter in my pack. This worked fine on my first attempt, but on my second try I ran out of water.

What was different the second time?
It was really hot that day with stagnant air, and I just ran out. I think having a CamelBak may have been part of the problem, and I don't think I'd solo with one again. As nice as it is to keep hydrated, it's so easy to just drink it too fast. When you are soloing something you go through water so much faster. I was working hard and just so thirsty all the time.

What happened when you ran out? Were you still able to finish the route?
So, on my second attempt on The Nose I was out of water for around 14 hours. I was super miserable, and I was getting wicked cramps in my forearms and by my scapulae and I just had to keep pushing through it. I knew that if I slowed down too much I wouldn't be able to finish the route and so I just pushed through all that, but I was very dehydrated. When I got into the upper dihedrals I was having these moments where I'd stand at the belay for 10 minutes and stare at my system and make sure I was clipped in and my GriGri was on right. I wasn't hallucinating but I was definitely on the verge and I just felt completely out of it.

I was hoping that when I got to the top I could find some water stashed somewhere, but I was worried about finding it and the whole experience just seemed like the worse thing ever. Then I topped out (after 25 hours and 40 minutes) and there was a brand new 1 gallon jug of water sitting right by the Nose Tree. It was just glistening in the morning sun, and I sat down and drank that whole gallon in about an hour. It was the most wonderful thing in the world.

The whole situation was a little funny to me because of an experience I had this summer. I was in the Canadian Rockies and climbed the Northeast Buttress of Howse Peak with Jewel Lund. It's a big 5000 foot beautiful choss pile of a mountain. We planned to be out for two days on the route, and then descending one morning down a separate descent route. However, when we got to the top we realized that the descent route wasn't in it was totally melted out. So we opted for this 30 mile bushwack out down the Howse River to the highway, and we ended up being just over two days longer than we anticipated. We had already gone light on our food and we had absolutely no food for two days but we did have water. At the time it seemed like the worst thing in the world to run out of food but I was amazed by just how well you can do without food and having water versus only 14 hours without water and having food. You can't even eat your food without water.

Atherton Phleger
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